Palestinians react to Soleimani assassination with indifference towards Iran, anger towards America

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Sitting in a coffee shop in Bethlehem, local tour guide Marwan Fararja, 50, is glued to his phone.

“Iran has retaliated against America, firing missiles at US military bases in Iraq,” the voice of a newscaster speaking in Arabic blares from his phone.

The voices coming from Fararja’s phone join a chorus of others playing from the phone of the bartender, and another group of young men sitting at the next table.

“God protect us,” Fararja mumbles solemnly, resting his head on his hand.

The scene at the cafe has been a common one in Palestine over the past week, as tensions continue to rise between the US and Iran.

While the situation in the occupied territory has remained relatively quiet in response to the US assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the tension being felt across the Middle East and the globe can most certainly be felt here.

“Even if it’s not directly affecting us, most people are paying attention to what is happening around us,” Fararja told Mondoweiss.

In his opinion, not many Palestinians are particularly “passionate” about or supportive of Iran as a country, “but we are more concerned about the action of an American president, specifically Trump, ordering the assassination of such an important figure.”

“It is wrong, and it shows that America wants war.”

Fararja, like many ordinary Palestinian citizens, isn’t too bent up about the killing of Soleimani himself, as much he is concerned about the geopolitical ramifications of America’s actions.

“As Arabs, it’s a tough thing to witness,” he said. “The situation in the Middle East — after ISIS and what happened in Syria — it seemed like things were improving for the better, and we were headed for a more peaceful time.”

“So for the Americans to go and do this, it just shows that all they want for the Middle East is constant war and violence and oppression, so long as they can continue to control us and our resources, and pursue their agendas here,” he continued.

In a nearby refugee camp, Nagm al-Jaf, an Iraqi Kurdish woman married to a Palestinian man, hasn’t turned away from the news for days.

“I have so much to say, but I don’t know where to start,” she told Mondoweiss from her living room.

“As an Iraqi woman, with a sense of sadness and urgency, all I ask for is peace for the Iraqi people — we have been through enough,” she said.

The last thing the Iraqi people need or want, al-Jaf says, is a war between two other countries to shed more blood on Iraqi soil.

When asked what she thinks about American aggression and imperialism in Iraq, al-Jaf was quick to respond.

“Do you think our only problem is with the Americans?” she asked, “No. We don’t just wasn’t America out of Iraq, we want Iran out of our affairs as well.”

While the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has yet to react to the assassination, leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad factions in Gaza set up a traditional mourning tent in Gaza for Soleimani, drawing widespread criticism from across the region for their support of the controversial figure.

“The martyrdom of Soleimani is a sign of pride and dignity in the face of America and the Zionist entity,” Secretary General of Islamic Jihad Ziad al-Nakhalah said, according to a statement from the group.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders expressed their gratitude for Soleimani’s support of the Palestinian people and resistance.

In Gaza, many Palestinians seemed to have mixed reactions to their leaders’ expressed support of Soleimani.

“I’m torn,” Anas Abu Shamala, 23, a student in Gaza City told Mondoweiss.

“Yes, Soleimani was a big supporter of the Palestinian resistance, but he also helped orchestrate the killing of hundreds thousands of our brothers in Syria. So a big part of me feels happy he is gone,” Abu Shamala said.

Abu Shamala said he also has mixed feelings about the mourning tent set up by political figures in Gaza.

“Mourning for and supporting Soleimani so publicly could come back to backfire on us in a bad way,” Abu Shamala said, noting that for now, it doesn’t seem like things will affect Gaza.

Such a public display of support, he said, has “proved the relationship between Gaza and Iran” and in the future could result in retaliation from “the forces in the region who are working against Iran, like Israel and the Gulf countries.”

Like Fararja and al-Jaf in Bethlehem, Abu Shamala says he and his friends, and the strangers he passes by during the day, have all been glued to their telephone and television screens.

“For the past few days everyone has been stuck to the news, trying to guess what will happen next,” he said.

Abu Shamala’s fellow student Muhammad Muneer, 23, told Mondoweiss that he was initially indifferent to the killing of Soleimani, but began to pay attention following the global media frenzy.

“I think the people are indifferent to his killing, but at the same time they’re interested in what’s going on politically, and the tensions between the US and Iran,” Muneer said.

“I don’t have much to say about Qasem Soleimani, but seeing the aftermath has forced me to pay attention and want to know more about what’s going on. And I think most Palestinians are like me,” he said,

Both Abu Shamala and Muneer said they hope that the situation does not escalate any further, but if it does, it is the fault of the Americans.

“Iran didn’t hurt the American soldiers, they didn’t kill anyone,” Muneer said of Iran’s retaliatory strikes on Wednesday morning. “So America shouldn’t retaliate and escalate the situation further.”

If the situation does continue to escalate, Abu Shamala hopes that the Iranian people will use it as an opportunity to “stop any infighting, and use this chance to stand together, united, against American imperialism on your land.”

Back in Bethlehem, Fararja echoes the sentiment of Abu Shamala in Gaza.

“The Americans came and wreaked havoc and destruction across the Middle East in the name of freedom and democracy,” Fararja told Mondoweiss, the tension rising in his voice.

“But today, when Iraq wants to use exercise their democracy and they vote for America to stay out of their affairs, America does not respect it. What kind of freedom is this?”

Fararja said that he doesn’t support Soleimani, but that as a Palestinian, “we stand with in solidarity with anyone who stands in the face of the Americans.”

“My message for the US is: leave our land, leave our countries, stop supporting oppression and occupation around the world, and begin actually supporting democracy and human rights,” he told Mondoweiss.

“We hope that the American people stand against their leaders who are going to war. Demand that your leaders stop the violence, take your soldiers home, and leave us to live on our land in peace.”

Khadija Hmeid contributed to this report from Gaza. 

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View all comments “Trump has Conducted a War on Iran for 19 Months; Iran finally Hit Back” Informed Comment, January 8/2020, by Juan Cole Ann Arbor – “The Iranian government replied to Trump’s assassination of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani on Tuesday by firing some 15 ballistic missiles at Ain al-Assad base in al-Anbar Province and at another Iraqi base at Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. The bases are Iraqi and mainly house members of the Iraqi military,… Read more »

I am disappointed with Mondoweiss and with this report. What happened with Iran directly affects Palestinian liberation and the lives of Palestinians not only under occupation, but also all over the world. This Mondoweiss article has either cherry picked its witnesses or misunderstood the feelings of the Palestinian people. Representatives on the highest level from most (if not all) Palestinian resistance organizations including leftist organizations such as the PFLP, attended Soleimani’s funeral and met with… Read more »

Very poor responses from the voxpop, indifferent to the fate of Qasem Soleimani, one of the greatest defenders of the Palestinian resistance against Israel/US. “But he also helped orchestrate the killing of hundreds thousands of our brothers in Syria. So a big part of me feels happy he is gone,” Abu Shamala said”. Could they be the head choppers of ISIS and ALQeada financed by Saudi Arabia by any chance? “Such a public display of… Read more »